Welcome to our Head Gardener’s Journal

In this monthly column, we will share technical aspects of our work and also keep you up to date about ongoing projects. If there is any topic you might want to hear more about, please ask during your next visit!

Bridging the Gap

Hedges can often be overlooked in a garden as simply a boundary separating one space from another. However, they serve many important functions and can be very beautiful, from flowers and berries to lush green emerging foliage or golden autumn colour. The benefits of hedges for wildlife are well-documented such as providing nesting places for birds or habitat for hedgehogs to pass through but a mixed hedge with different fruits and flowers can provide nectar for pollinating insects and winter food for birds. Recent research has also revealed the benefit of hedges for blocking out noise, capturing particulate pollution and reducing the risk of flash flooding by intercepting rainfall.

The perimeter Beech hedge running along the lane in winter.

We have many different hedges here at Morton Hall from evergreen hedges of Portuguese Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) and Yew (Taxus baccata) to deciduous hedges of Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) and Beech (Fagus sylvatica). However, the largest and oldest hedge in the garden is the one running along Morton Hall lane made up of Beech on the outside and Yew on the inside. This hedge has separated the garden from the lane since Edwardian times but, sadly, a section of the hedge inexplicably died last summer and needed to be replaced.

The gap in the hedge in need of replanting.

Hedging is best planted from late autumn to spring and can be brought in a variety of different specifications from bare root whips to root balled and potted plants. We chose to plant the Yew as 1.2m tall root balled plants at equal distances in a trench dug by hand. To aid establishment we removed the hessian around the root ball before planting and added mycorrhizal fungi to the planting hole before firming the plants in and mulching. When planting and mulching woody plants such as hedging plants, one must plant at the correct depth as planting too low in the ground and covering with mulch can cause the base of the stem to rot and the plant to die.

The section of Beech hedge was replaced by larger 2m tall ‘instant hedging’ units. These were selected to provide an immediate screen from the road and were supplied in 1m long cardboard boxes. Again, a trench was dug but this time with a mini digger, and we chose to remove the cardboard from around the plants before placing them out in the trench.

Digging the trench, with a little help from the digger! The ‘instant hedging’ units arriving! The hedging spaced out in the trench.

The new Beech hedge was also mulched after planting and a section of perforated hose was laid through both new sections of hedging so that, during this coming summer, it can be kept easily watered in dry weather. We will keep a watchful eye on this new hedge so that it hopefully establishes well and is there to mark the boundary of Morton Hall for another 100 years!

The new section of hedge finished planting.